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Asia Pacific Report

Indonesia’s military regional command in Papua has denied claims made by a pro-independence West Papuan group that abducted New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens more than a year ago that the army had staged a bombing attack, The Jakarta Post reports.

Responding to a claim by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) that aerial bombing had taken place in an area in Nduga regency where Mehrtens had been taken hostage on February 7 last year, the Indonesian Military (TNI) said it had deployed only flyby operations there.

Lieutenant Colonel Candra Kurniawan, a spokesperson for the Cendrawasih Regional Military Command in Papua province, denied that any military operation involving aerial bombs had taken place.

He said soldiers from the Nduga District Military Command 1706 only carried out routine patrols in the region.

“This [patrol] was conducted together with the local community. There has been nothing like an air strike,” Candra told the Bahasa-language Tempo on Saturday.

He also rebuffed TPNPB’s claim that TNI soldiers had engaged in a firefight with members of pro-independence group.

“Many [TNI] members are in the field serving the community, the situation is also conducive,” Colonel Candra said.

On March 30, TPNPB spokesperson Sebby Sambom said in a statement received by Tempo that the military had deployed aerial attacks using “military aircraft, helicopters and drones” and destroyed four of the group’s posts in Nduga.

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